Labor Official Who Resigned Over Bogus Report Of Antisemitism Gets His Job Back

The U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
September 5, 2019 9:34 a.m.

The Labor Department official who resigned after a Bloomberg reporter contacted the department about the employee’s years-old and seemingly sarcastic Facebook post will be reinstated, a department spokesperson confirmed to TPM Thursday.

“On Friday, August 30, 2019, Senior Policy Advisor of the Wage and Hour Division, Leif Olson offered his resignation and the department accepted. Following a thorough reexamination of the available information and upon reflection, the department has concluded that Mr. Olson has satisfactorily explained the tone of the content of his sarcastic social media posts and will return to his position in the Wage and Hour Division,” department spokeswoman Megan Sweeney said in a statement.

Olson offered his resignation earlier this week after Bloomberg labor reporter Ben Penn reached out to the department with a screenshot of a 2016 Facebook post in which Olson appeared to be sarcastically mock Breitbart’s coverage of then-House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) primary election, using anti-Semitic tropes. At the time, Ryan was running against an avowed white nationalist and anti-Semite.

In the post, Olson chaffed Breitbart for its fawning coverage of challenger Paul Nehlen and in the comments joked with another Facebook user about Ryan being a Jew (he’s Catholic) and using the trope that Jewish people control the media and “protect their own.”

Olson told Bloomberg this week that the remarks were meant to be a “sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions,” given who Ryan’s primary challenger was. Bloomberg reporter Penn was widely criticized by journalists and lawyers alike for publishing the story when it was seemingly clear that Olson was criticizing the far-right.

Bloomberg, which previously said it stood by Penn’s reporting, did not note the context of Ryan’s 2016 challenger in the story. On Wednesday evening, Bloomberg updated the headline and some of the copy of its original story, removing the word “anti-Semitic” from the headline and adding that the original post about Ryan appeared to be sarcastic.

“In light of the subsequent events, we removed “Anti-Semitic” from the headline and clarified Olson’s reference to those tropes,” a note atop the original post read.

The original article also now links to a new story noting that Olson has been reinstated at the Labor Department. That story does not include Penn’s byline. Terence Hyland, an editor, authored the new story. It’s an unusual move given that Penn’s reporting initiated Olson’s resignation in the first place.

Olson and Bloomberg did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment. But CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that reporters at Bloomberg Law were told not to tweet out the new story.

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